The Job Centre staff were more affable; they speak my local dialect, they sounded closer(?) and most importantly they don’t have a crystal ball let alone a maze. The immediate advantage of not going through a call centre was having direct access to humans with real emotions and compassion. Their response felt real. When I was transferred to my local Job Centre, Anne Marie took my call. I won’t lie, it was challenging initially to disentangle what assistance I required from her, but at least we both spoke Swahili.
She quickly realised that what I needed was a home visit as opposed to a home assessment. (the difference was lost on me but apparently this was the main challenge to understanding back at DWP). Anne-Marie confirmed that I had in fact already been referred to the home visiting team, but the lady with the appropriate skills to visit me, was off for another two weeks. This was another of my lucky white heather moments. It was also quite obvious from Anne- Marie’s commiseratory tone that my previous febrile outburst with the DWP, had been communicated by some unseen red flag, to alert call takers that I had rabid tendencies.
Anne-Marie anticipated my frustration realising the appointment was some weeks away. She deftly averted another outburst by convincing me to leave it with her to allow her to amend that delay. Her tactics included a promise to call me back. I have to admit I was sceptical about this; even in a short space of time throughout this process I’d lost faith in basic human ability to keep promises. I felt vulnerable; I was uncertain, could I invest my trust in this individual given the faltering progress I’d made with this claim for ESA? Shame on me. Anne- Marie was not a Ben, she did more than her job required. Unable to contact the home visiting team personally she also emailed them about my plight hoping to awaken their sense of compassion and arrange an earlier visit. Not only had she done this but knowing she was not coming to work the following day, she had tasked a trusted colleague to contact me and confirm that the home visiting team had at least been in touch.
I received a telephone call from the home visiting team, unaware of Anne-Marie’s efforts in the background. I considered that in the absence of a call back from her she had forgotten about me. I was just so grateful someone was going to come and visit me and get this claim form organised. An hour later, a second call from the Job Centre, confirmed Anne-Marie was a woman of her word. Not only had her trusted colleague followed up on her request to check the home visiting team had taken action, she was making sure I was happy that something was finally in place. Lost faith was instantly restored. Not only did I receive a call to confirm the stand-in arrangements, a letter confirming the appointment arrived and a text message was pinged to my phone! Technology was alive and kicking at Universal Credit after all. At last, I had subverted the crystal maze.
On week 6, an officer arrived to take my claim, not assess my ability to be seen at home. He was demonstrably relieved that I had a form I completed earlier (saving him an hour) and he was elated that I was able to provide him with, not only my verifying documents but signed photocopies to take away. Owing to my preparations he spent 15 minutes on my visit. And I’m wondering what all the fuss was about.
All I had to do now was wait for a decision and payment……………oh and physio.